When you think of the word “YouTuber”, clickbait, the Paul brothers, cash grab music, beauty-gurus, “tea accounts”, and diss-tracks, most likely come to mind. Yet, still found on YouTube is a bright, genuinely talented person who avoids drama, and always seems to be above or ahead of the trends: Conan Gray.
Conan Gray is a lifestyle and music YouTuber from Texas, now studying at UCLA. Gray has been on his channel since 2013, when he posted a video titled, “Let Me Introduce Myself”. Gray was much younger then, with a higher-pitched voice and worried eyes. His first video was calm, properly edited, and more self-aware than the average kid’s video. Gray has continued to post for five years. Even his early video differed from the very formulaic content that could be found online at the time.
Through the years Gray has challenged the norms set by “boy’s” YouTube channels. Gray, in 2015, at age 15 posted a video, “HOT THINGS GIRLS DO” mocking the then current tropes within the male YouTuber community. He shared his love of fashion and design, sang songs about boys, and told viewers to buy clothes from whichever section of a store they want, regardless of size or gender. In 2018 Gray posted a video of himself painting his nails for the first time, called, “i’m a girly boy and i don’t care (kinda)” where he discussed the fluidity of gender, masculinity, sexuality, and his difficulty to find confidence off-camera. Throughout the following months, Gray would continue to post videos of him painting his nails, applying makeup, and discussing such topics.
Conan Gray’s videos are typically ahead of the trends. With his “artsy” editing (that he’s been using for years) and his longtime love of thrifting, Conan Gray has been ahead of the curve. While everyone is just now catching on to the power of their local GoodWill, and the magic of a record player, Conan Gray has been there, thrifted that. The most impressive aspect of Gray’s “perfect” aesthetic, life, and style, is that he never carries himself with an air of superiority. Gray even making videos titled, “youtube conan vs twitter conan” and “i’m not perfect” where he discusses his perfectionism, and the difference of people’s perceptions of him depending on the social media platform. Giggling at fan-made memes throughout the whole video, Gray never denies or ignores his perfectionism or the differences between himself on different social media platforms. Sure, he may have discovered that band before you, but he’s happy to share, not shame. He’s happy to smile at the camera listing his monthly favorites, like a friend sharing a secret with you.
Being candid with his conversations on camera never appeared to be difficult for Gray. Chatty videos such as “ART-TEA” videos where Gray worked on some sort of his art while drinking tea (or coffee), and discussing whatever is on his mind. Gray also posts baking videos with his best friend Ashley, while they discuss anything in their lives, from friendships to Queer Eye. Being honest and open about his friends and high school experience were typically done with grace, while maintaining a certain level of privacy. Gray refrained from vlogging his prom and graduation to best enjoy the moments for himself. However, he opened up about his experiences with grades, his AP art portfolio, childhood trauma, college admissions, being bullied, and how he was mocked for his music.
Conan Gray is first and foremost, on his channel, a musician. Fellow YouTuber Haley Pham posted a video titled “dancing to Conan Gray’s dreamy voice”. Where she shared with a cheeky grin that, “he’s [Conan Gray is] one of the few YouTubers whose music I actually like… no offense to anyone else’s YouTube music.” That quote, while a teasing afterthought, spoke volumes about the current music culture on YouTube. Many internet stars who have been signing record deals left and right, as a way to bring in even more money, despite the passionless sound of their songs. Some YouTubers do like singing, and can produce music that gains lots of attention and profit, but have little genuine talent. Conan Gray is none of the above.
Conan Gray’s lyrics are deeply personal, and share sentiments of a quiet high schooler opting to enjoy simple moments with friends, regardless of peer pressures. His covers will make you completely forget the song was not written by him. His vocals have a shockingly powerful, yet lullaby-like quality. With beautiful lyrics, a talent for making covers his own, and strong vocals; Conan Gray is remarkable.
You can catch this rising star on tour this fall, purchase his highly anticipated EP (release date not yet known), and follow him on: